Rodriguez for Congress campaign
International Trade

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[October 12, 2016]  Rodriguez Believes Protectionism is Unwise, but Fair Trade Practices are Essential - The United States must be able to compete in the global economy of the twenty-first century. Any policies that invoke excessive protectionist elements or seek to foster commercial isolationism do not serve the long-range interests of the nation as they hinder growth and fail to stimulate job creation.

 The key challenge that we face in terms of our international trade practices is finding the means through which we can foster fair trade that protects the rights and prerogatives of American workers while also upholding the best practices standards that are in place with respect to our international trade partners. Fair trade agreements must be based upon the three key principles that the dignity of labor is honored, workplace safety standards are upheld, and environmental protection is guaranteed. In my view, the failure of any proposed trade agreement to ensure such practices would be sufficient reason to oppose such a measure.

We must remember that nations enter into trade agreements because it is mutually beneficent for them to do so—it is perceived as the classic “win-win” scenario. An effective trade agreement cannot be evaluated in the context of being a zero-sum game in which only one side benefits and the other side capitulates. The key element to negotiating effective trade agreements is to utilize the principle of national self-interest while at the same time proffering potential benefits that can be advantageous to the economic development of our trade partners. When describing the benefits of capitalism we often use the old familiar adage that “A rising tide lifts all ships.” If we truly believe in the economic potential of the free market, we must be willing to engage in fair trade practices that can help to lift others out of poverty and despair. Doing so is in the long-range strategic interest of the United States.

I believe that there are key potential hemispheric partnerships that the U.S. can develop with sister republics in the Americas that can be mutually beneficent in the long run. Key among these is the opening of relations with Cuba after two generations of embargoed trade. An effective trade policy can leverage the potential for economic development with the attainment of key benchmarks dealing with expansion of democracy, liberalization of human rights practices, and freedom of association.

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Although these goals are ideal in the abstract, we must certainly incorporate the “trust but verify” principle to guarantee that real progress is being achieved as a result of trade policy. Our policy must always be contingent upon real and measurable results. In addition to Cuba, such possibilities for hemispheric trade partnerships could also be developed with Bolivia and Venezuela provided that they too were willing to implement the changes outlined in the previously mentioned benchmarks.

Fair trade policies cannot establish the groundwork for siphoning off American jobs to foreign subcontractors who hire cheap labor and do not meet safety and environmental standards. The United States is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and to various international protocols that seek to suppress unfree labor and modern slavery practices. We must never agree to trade policies that act in violation of the key values that we hold dear with respect to the dignity of labor and the worth of the individual. There are key advantages that can be gained through international trade agreements, but we must never permit commercial interests to overshadow our commitment to long-standing practices that honor the dignity of labor.

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